By Judy Frankel
There are so many diverse restaurant offerings in the Greater Madison area. You can travel the world with your palette just by experiencing the myriad of tastes in our amazing ethnic dining scene and leave your passport at home.
If the flavors of Asia are what tempts your tummy. Be sure to visit Lao Lann-Xang. Family-owned and operated since 1989, this authentic Laotian restaurant specializes in Laotian cuisine and vegetarian dishes. Each dish is prepared in genuine Lao tradition with fresh ingredients.
Must-try dish: The squash curry is a perennial favorite for vegetarians, but meat eaters will also enjoy the hearty dish with its warm spicy notes and rich, thick broth.
At Sujeo, James Beard award-winning chef, Tory Miller, pulls his influence from a variety of cultures, fusing locally-sourced ingredients with Asian techniques & flavors to create a menu meant to be sampled & shared.
Must-try dish: Sujeo menu changes often in order to bring the freshest ingredients to the table. Be sure to add banchan to your order which is an artful array of kimchi, pickles and pickled vegetables, Korean-style.
On the Capital Square, Tavernakaya features Japanese inspired izakaya dishes. Their ramen noodles are made in-house and their concise sushi menu will deliver on your favorite rolls and maki.
Must-try dish: Tempura cheese curds will give you a new spin on a Wisconsin favorite. Locally sourced curds are breaded in a light tempura batter and deep fried. Served on a bamboo skewer and drizzled with a spicy mayonnaise sauce, these are great as a light snack or appetizer for a main meal.
If you love Cajun flavors, head to Liliana’s Restaurant in Fitchburg. The wrought iron décor and live Jazz music will make you feel like you are in the French Quarter. Start off with a bottle of Abita beer or one of their many interpretations of a Hurricane and let the good times roll.
Must-try dish: The file gumbo will hit the spot with its smoky spicy combination of Andouille sausage, chorizo and vegetables. Served over rice, it is a taste of the spicy southern Cajun flavors nearly a thousand miles north of the Bayou.
Banzo is the place to go for all things Mediterranean. If you crave falafel or perhaps a warm bowl of lentil soup is more your thing, head to any of Banzo’s locations- they’ve got food carts and two stand-alone restaurants dishing up tantalizing dishes with a Middle East flair.
Must-try dish: Falafel in a pita is a great way to introduce yourself to the flavors of the Middle East. A vegetarian-friendly dish, falafel, is made of garbanzo beans ground with vegetables, spices and herbs. The mixture is shaped into a ball, similar in size to a meatball, and then deep-fried. The result is a crisp, crunchy exterior and a pillowy interior. Traditional accompaniments include hummus (more chickpeas),fresh vegetables and for those who like things spicy, a killer house-made hot sauce.
If your idea of a perfect meal involves cooked moules (mussels) accompanied by some outstanding frites- that’s French for fries- be sure to stop in to Brasserie V. This French bistro has incredible beer offerings including some hard-to-find European imports and more than 100 Belgian beers. French-inspired cuisine made lovingly with locally-sourced ingredients is the basis for the menu that offers French bistro classics such as cassoulet and steak-frites.
Must-try dish: Regardless of your order, be sure to get the aforementioned frites. Served in a paper cone with delectable dipping sauces, you’ll be transported to the streets of continental Europe with the crisp, salty treat.
If you don’t have a lot of time to explore all the ethnic eats in our destination, why not take in a tasty trip around the globe with an ethnic food tour hosted by Madison Eats. This local company offers generous tastings at multiple spots that can have you sampling Ethiopian, Mexican and Indonesian dishes in just around two hours’ time.
Keep exploring Madison's dining options and try out the dishes and restaurants you’ve seen here.